Symptoms of Breast Cancer

One or more of the following physical symptoms may be an indication of breast cancer.

  • A lump or thickening in the tissue of the breast or the underarm
  • Change in the size or shape of a breast
  • Dimpling of the skin over the breast
  • Discharge from the nipple
  • Red, peeling, scaling or flaking skin on or around the breast

Keep in mind that these symptoms also can indicate conditions other than breast cancer. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, especially if you find a lump, contact your doctor as soon as possible so the cause can be diagnosed and treatment can be started promptly.

Diagnostic Tests for Breast Cancer

If the findings of your mammogram raise the suspicion for breast cancer,  your doctor may recommend one or more of the following tests.

  • Breast Ultrasound uses sound waves to produce images from inside the breast with more detail than mammograms. An ultrasound can help determine whether an abnormality is likely to be a fluid-filled cyst or a solid mass, which may be either benign or cancerous. Breast ultrasound is also used to guide certain types of biopsies.
  • Biopsy is a procedure in which your doctor removes a sample of the suspicious breast cells and a pathologist examines them. If cancerous cells are found, the biopsy also can determine the type and aggressiveness (grade) of the cancer. Your physician may choose to perform one of the following breast biopsies
    • Fine-needle aspiration biopsy — A radiologist uses a thin needle to remove cells or fluid from a breast lump
    • Core biopsy —A radiologist uses a wider needle to remove a larger sample of breast tissue
    • Skin biopsy — If there are skin changes on your breast, a physician may take a small sample of skin
    • Surgical biopsy — A surgeon removes either a part of the lump (incisional biopsy) or the entire abnormal area (excisional biopsy).
  • Breast MRI may be ordered to give your doctor an idea of the extent of the cancer confirmed on biopsy and to look for evidence of cancer in the other breast.
  • Molecular Breast Imaging may be done to help identify questionable findings arising from a mammogram or physical examination. Before the image is taken, you’ll receive an injection with a radioisotope, or tracer, that cancer cells absorb more of than normal cells. If cancer cells are present, they will appear white on the image due to the absorption of the tracer and are easier to identify.


Our physicians specialize in managing breast cancer at the following convenient Houston Methodist Cancer Center locations.